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30 second politics, 30 years too late Political advertising on television in Swedish election campaigns

Conference contribution
Authors Marie Grusell
Lars Nord
Published in Abstract Book of the 6th European Communication Conference, ECREA. November 9-12. Prague.
ISBN 978-80-906655-0-7
Publisher CZECH-IN, s. r. o.
Place of publication Praha
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Language en
Keywords Political advertising, television, Sweden, election campaigns, hybridization
Subject categories Media and Communications


30 second politics, 30 years too late Political advertising on television in Swedish election campaigns Marie Grusell, University of Gothenburg Lars Nord, Mid Sweden University Televised political advertising appears in very different national political communication contexts. Most previous research has been conducted in the U.S. and conditions in Europe differ in many ways: most political systems are multiparty based, election campaigns are shorter and public service media have a stronger position in television markets. Some European countries allow political ads in TV, with or without restrictions; in other cases there are dual systems, combining TV ads with special political party programs. Sweden is an interesting case to study. During many years, political ads on TV were not allowed at all. However, with the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television the public service obligations of the ‘hybrid’ channel TV4 were dismantled. In the 2009 European Parliamentary Elections all non-socialist parties used political ads on TV4. One year later, in the 2010 National Election campaign, political advertising on TV had its breakthrough as all Swedish parliamentary parties bought advertising time on TV4. In a few years, political advertising has become a natural element in Swedish election campaigns. Generally speaking, the transformation of political TV ads from non-existence to a central role in the campaign is remarkable. Furthermore, it is worth note that Sweden now has a very liberal view on political advertising on TV. There are really no limits, at least not from an economic perspective. If the parties agree with TV4 – and have a large enough budget -– they can basically buy as many spots as they want. On the other hand, the importance of the new communication channel is contested, as it is pressed between traditional paid media channels and expanding campaign activities on social media platforms. This paper intends to shed new light on political TV ads as a new campaign feature in a rapidly transforming political communication environment. The two last national Election campaigns in Sweden, 2010 and 2014, are analyzed from a party campaign strategy perspective. Methodologically, the paper is based on personal interviews and party surveys with campaign managers of all political parties. Theoretically, the study relates to the concept of hybridization of election campaigns, or the merger between traditional country specific practices and transnational features as discussed in previous literature (Plaser & Plasser 2002; Pfetsch & Esser 2012). The study intends to increase knowledge about the nature of the hybridization process by focusing on a critical case where one of the most adopted campaign practices worldwide are finally implemented within a specific national context and deviating political culture.

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